- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — The owner of The Lamp Repair Shop in Knightville said his business has managed to succeed, despite taking a hit from parking changes on Ocean Street.
“We instantly saw a 40 percent drop in business and I don’t think we’re alone down here,” owner Brian Allen said. “We used to have 19 (on-street) parking spots, but now we have nine. … I don’t think we’ve ever recovered from that decision.”
Three years ago, Ocean Street was converted to two-way traffic with parallel parking, instead of angled parking. Allen said the decision affected business in a way that the City Council didn’t seem to take into consideration.
“Our customers are older, and parallel parking can be more difficult for them,” he said. “It is also difficult for them to lug heavy antiques if they have to park far away.”
It’s hard to say how parking arrangements have impacted other businesses in the neighborhood – the touchy subject of parking and traffic dissuaded several other owners from even talking about the topic.
Mike Drinan, owner of Drinan Property Management at 87A Ocean St., said many merchants are still complaining. But he said he’d rather put aside the issue and move on to more important things.
“They’re beating a dead horse if they think the city is going to re-address that issue,” Drinan said.
Allen, meanwhile, said variety – The Lamp Repair Shop also makes shelves, night lights and other products from unconventional parts – has helped keep his business viable.
“We have an uncanny knack of figuring out repairs that has kept us alive and going,” said Allen, who began working out of his home in 1986. “We also make a lot of repurposed light fixtures that people find unique and interesting.”
After moving to Thornton Heights in 1997, and to Willard Square in 1999, Allen finally nestled his business at 105 Ocean St. in 2002. He has been there ever since, and since its inception, has repaired more than 43,000 light fixtures.
“My initial interest in this business began when I was very young, and as I grew older I started to realize how much I disliked mass production,” Allen said. “I wanted to change that, so I began refurbishing items. People like quirky, unique, one-of-a-kind products.”
From oxygen tanks made into rockets, to hollowing out an old clock to make a fish tank, the repurposed items found in the shop is almost endless.
Mike Gutgsell, who is in charge of the polishing shop at the business, assists in the creation of refurbished items when he has free time. He joined forces with Allen in 1999 and has been making antique items look new again for almost two decades.
“There is an instant gratification I get when I take someone’s personal items and make them look good again with polishing, especially if I get to see their reaction,” Gutgsell said. “Upcycling materials is great, too. We save a lot of things from going to the dump and save money that way.”
Gutgsell explained that many of the lamps and light fixtures scattered throughout their business have been collected over the years, either donated by community members or found at flea markets.
“We get stuff from all over the country,” he said. “Sometimes you have parts for years and years before we ever use them. We don’t buy anything new to make these creations, we typically just modify antiques.”
He also said the business has stayed afloat due, in part, to smart financial decisions in its early years.
“We didn’t dump gobs of money to be in the red before we even got started,” he said.
Both Allen and Gutgsell say the age of their customers typically ranges from 60-90, and younger people that come in seeking repairs often bring in products made with cheap materials, which has had an impact on business.
“The baby boomer generation are the last of the great collectors. The stuff they bring in to us may be very sentimental to them,” Allen said. “Younger people just don’t care about antiques like that generation does. Now we have automatons making products, not people, and it’s just not the same.”
Brian Allen, right, owns The Lamp Shop on Ocean Street in South Portland, where Mike Gutgsell provides polishing services for the lamps and shelves made from non-conventional items. Allen said parking changes on Ocean Street three years ago caused an initial 40 percent drop in business.
The Lamp Repair Shop, 105 Ocean St. in South Portland.
The Lamp Shop also makes shelves, night lights and other products from non-conventional parts – like this oxygen tank made into a rocket-shaped lamp – that owner Brian Allen said has helped maintain the vitality of the business.
Many of the lamps and light fixtures scattered throughout The Lamp Repair Shop have been donated by customers or found at flea markets.